Abelam - Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. Most clans are split into Lineages, members of which often live together as a local unit. In a hamlet generally two or three clans (or rather lineages) are represented. This arrangement means that, within a lineage, a man with his brothers and their sons, as well as most of the in-marrying wives of their children, live together. Relations between siblings are close, expressing themselves also in continuous mutual assistance in all kinds of matters, with such assistance also extended to the children of brothers. The elder brother has some authority over the younger who pays him respect. Each nuclear family has several houses: a sleeping house for the father, a dwelling house for the mother and her children, and one or several storehouses for the root crop. In polygamous marriages not all in-marrying cowives live Together in the same hamlet—where they live depends on the relationship between cowives. But a man wants his wives to live on his own land. Otherwise, if his children are born on another clan's land, his claim over his children may be challenged. Although, ideally, Abelam clans are said to be patrilineal, affiliations with other lineages and clans are very flexible. Continuous relations with one's mother's relatives (living on the land of the mother's brother), fosterage, and adoption give many opportunities for temporary and/or Permanent association. This flexibility also leads to many disputes over landownership, rights of land use, etc. And Because of this associational flexibility and also the absence of elaborate genealogies, clans as social organizational units are only predominant in questions of landownership. Clans are associated with the names of spirits, specific water holes where the spirits are temporarily found, magical leaves, and emblems (mostly birds). Most of these attributes become relevant only in ritual context but even then they are not applied systematically but rather casually or in a flexible manner. Sometimes they are used as attributes for moieties rather than clans.

Kinship Terminology. Kin terms are used mostly on special occasions such as during a dispute when somebody wants to express how closely related he or she is with somebody else. In mortuary ceremonies, during the wake, and before the corpse is buried, the deceased is addressed in kin terms only. In everyday life mostly proper names are used. Cousin terms follow the Iroquois system.


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